One of my favorite things about being Jewish is the catalog of greetings and salutations to mark the seasons and the seasons of our lives. Shabbat shalom. Shanah Tovah. Mazal Tov. HaMakom yenachem etchem. I remember the first time I learned that the greeting for a person who is pregnant is B'sha'a Tova, which translates to "in a good moment" or "in its right time."
I also remember the first time I realized how important this greeting is. A friend called to share the news that they were unexpectedly pregnant. And before they had a chance to share that they were planning to have an abortion, I jumped in and said, "Mazal tov." Mistaking the stressful moment for one of celebration. As they shared that it was not the right time for them to have a child, I emotionally backpedaled and found the ritualized response that Jewish tradition had prepared for me all along. I shifted my tone and said, "B'sha'a tova." Which is fitting to say when learning someone is pregnant and when learning someone is having an abortion.
There are many reasons someone may decide to have an abortion, and certainly timing is among them. I know this has been true for members of Kol Tzedek who I have supported through their own decisions to have an abortion. It is precisely because Judaism values life so highly that it also understands that abortion is healthcare. Abortion saves lives.
In the midst of our rage and our grief at the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, I want to reiterate that abortion is still legal in Pennsylvania. I want to share with you the brave words that a KT member shared last Shabbat in their Dvar Torah about abortion. And this amazing toolkit created by the Abortion Liberation Fund of PA.
And finally, I want to share with you a few words of Torah on the subject of redemption in its right time. In addition to many other blessings, this weekend, we will invite the blessings of the new moon of Tammuz. Known as Shabbat Mevarchim, this is the blessed Shabbat that immediately precedes the coming of the new moon. The new moon of Tammuz signals the arrival of summer and the season of harvest.
Rabbi Jill Hammer writes,
"Before the last of the harvest is gathered in, there will be hot days, maybe drought. The summer of the Jewish calendar is tinged with sadness and anxiety. National tragedies are remembered at this time, as are personal failings. Summertime is not necessarily an easy time...
"A midrash (Song of Songs Rabbah 8:14) compares the redemption of Israel to four kinds of harvest: grain, grapes, spices, and children. Each of these precious fruits must be gathered in at the right time (b'sha'a tova) or else not gathered at all..."
The midrash explains that if the grapes are gathered before their time even their vinegar will not be good. If spices are gathered when they are soft and moist, their smell will not carry. Timing, says the midrash, is everything. Both in our personal lives and our collective story.
Underneath the agricultural metaphor, is the existential wondering,
How long must we wait for a world that is whole and just?
For redemption from violent rulers and regimes?
I am reminded of where our story as a people begins. With the midwives who bravely saved the babies from drowning in the Nile, despite Pharaoh's decree. The violent control of women's bodies has been a tactic of dictators and slave masters since the beginning of human existence. And our capacity as people to organize, undermine, and overthrow such violent regimes is in our DNA.
Lastly, I want to send you off into Shabbat with the wise words of AOC:
"Many of our biggest problems are the result of massively scaled up isolation from others. That means many of our solutions can be found in creating community...
"You are allowed to be scared. To grieve. To be angry. But you are also allowed to create good, to be soft and enjoy the small reprieves. Struggle lasts as long as we do."
I have faith in us. In our capacity to create good and bring about redemption in this world.
B'sha'a tova - may redemption come to us in its right time.
Shabbat shalom u'mevorach,
Rabbi Ari Lev
You can search Rabbi Ari Lev's blog below:
Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari brings Torat Hayyim, a living tradition, to Kol Tzedek through thoughts about prayer, justice, and community.